I believe in the transparency of government and I support the strength and integrity of the Freedom of Information Act. If this document is a working paper, the public’s right to know outweighs any exemption from the reach of the FOIA.
He's not conceding that the papers aren't gubernatorial working papers. But he's saying the public's right to know outweighs the office's claim to that protection. This was always a distinction that Mike Huckabee refused to draw, even if he understood it. Just because a paper MAY be kept secret under FOI exemptions, it doesn't mean it MUST be kept secret. Thus Beebe has set an example that I suspect he'll follow on such matters as accounting of Governor's Mansion expenditures and the like. Even if it is a gubernatorial working paper (which those records are not) public interest is more important.
"Questionable ethics going on in this courtroom today. Member of prosecution's office on media bench softly claps when certain race is called."
The ACLU of Arkansas filed suit in federal court today on behalf of a mother and son from Dover who say they were brutalized by police officers while out walking their dog in Sept. 2011. Read the allegations in the lawsuit here. A federal lawsuit had previously been filed in the case just before the one-year anniversary of the incident. Today's filing amended the complaint to include the son, who has since turned 18. Read more about the case on the jump...
Spoke this morning with a juror in the manslaughter trial of former LRPD officer Josh Hastings. The trial ended in a hung jury and mistrial yesterday after two full days of deliberations. The marquee quote from the juror on the two female holdouts who refused to convict: "They were biased. I really feel like they were, because they couldn't get past the badge."
In part, said the juror, the two holdouts favored acquittal because Hastings in the fatal shooting was "preventing future crimes." She said that by the time the jury realized they were hopelessly deadlocked, the ten members who favored conviction were unanimous in their belief he should be convicted of the lesser charge of Negligent Homicide.
The juror asked that we keep her name confidential. Read details from a long conversation with her on the jump...
Also, Josh Hastings himself appears to have some comments on this Facebook page, Justice for Josh. A couple of posts are shown below, the first from late last night, the second from Saturday night.
The Facebook page has been removed, by the way,
The jury is out for deliberations in the manslaughter case of former LRPD officer Josh Hastings. The deliberations began about 11 a.m. and no word by 3:30 p.m. Long update on this morning's closing arguments after the jump...
UPDATE: The judge and lawyers have conferred privately about notes from jury, most recently about 4:30 p.m.
UPDATE II: About 6 p.m., after seven hours of deliberation, spectators learned no decision had been reached. Judge Wendell Griffen sent the jury home for the night to resume at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The jury consists of nine women and three men, all white.
I'm going back to the courthouse this morning to listen to the closings on the Josh Hastings trial — the LRPD officer who was charged with manslaughter after killing a 15 year old Bobby Moore as Moore tried to flee after breaking into cars at an apartment complex in West Little Rock. It should be to the jury by lunch. Hopefully, we'll have a verdict before dark.
Hastings says that in August 2012, Moore drove a Honda Civic at him in an attempt to run him over while fleeing from Shadow Lakes Apartments, where Hastings had been dispatched to a report of car break ins. Hastings said the Honda narrowly missed him after he fired three shots into the car, striking Moore twice, once in the head, which a forensic pathologist said would have been a "crumple shot" that killed him instantly. Hastings said that after continuing past him, the car rolled up onto a rock-covered slope, lingered long enough for him to see Bobby Moore lying slumped inside the car, rolled back off the slope, and then coasted backwards into a parked car over 100 feet away.
When the LRPD searched the rock slope and looked at the damage to the Honda, however, they found no evidence that the car had been driven up onto that slope, which features sunk-in granite boulders, some the size of dinner plates. An engineer who prepared a report for the prosecution would later testify that in addition to the curb, some of the rocks at the curb line where Hastings said the car jumped the curb and mounted the slope — a 33 degree incline — were as much as 13 inches higher than the pavement. The Honda Moore was driving, fully loaded, was around 4-1/2 inches off the pavement at the front air dam, and yet the car showed only what the engineer described as "road rash" from concrete parking stops on the front bumper, and no damage consistent with a heavy rock impact on the exhaust, floorboards, plastic radiator undershroud or aluminum rims. The same engineer/accident reconstructionist said the slope showed no evidence of rocks being disturbed, scraping to the rocks, paint or rubber transfer, etc.
A defense expert — a former Arkansas State Trooper — did testify that he believed the car could have driven up the slope, but when he tried to do it with an identical test car at 13 miles an hour — just over half of how fast Josh Hastings testified he believed the car Bobby Moore was going when it came at him and mounted the curb — the test car hit rocks, disturbed rocks and left paint and rubber transfer. As seen in a video shown in court yesterday, when defense accident reconstructionist Dale Donham tried to drive up the slope in that identical Honda, the car didn't roll back. Instead, it had to be put in reverse to be dislodged from the rocks. Later investigation found that the test car left plentiful sign that it had gone there: marks on rocks, rubber transfer, disturbed rocks, scratches to the car's bumper and undercarriage, etc.
The prosecution's claim is what the two teens who were in the car that night with Bobby Moore testified to: that Bobby Moore saw Hastings, came to a complete stop or almost to stop, and was looking back so he could put the car in reverse and flee when Hastings shot. One of the bullets entered Bobby Moore's head just above the left ear, which would seem to be consistent with someone looking back over his shoulder to drive backward, though the defense said the head twisting could have been a result of Moore jerking backwards after being shot in the finger and chest.
Josh Hastings stated that he was 1-2 feet off the curb when he shot, with the car 5 feet from him. As the prosecution pointed out, at 25-30 miles an hour, the speed Hastings initially told investigators after the shooting, he would have had less than 1/4 of a second to fire three shots, two of them accurate, then get out of the way without being struck. In order for his account to be correct, the car would have also had to travel up the slope, leaving minimal damage to the car and no apparent transfer of materials to the rocks, and then roll back down.
I'm not a jury member. I'm not on that panel, and the only proof that I was impartial the day I walked in there is me telling you that I walked in there not caring one way or the other which way it went. No matter whether Josh Hastings is found guilty or not guilty, his life will be irrevocably changed, and Bobby Moore's life is ended. I will tell you, however, that while the testimony of Bobby Moore's friends proved they were out that night looking for things to steal from sleeping people, the testimony of engineer and accident reconstructionist John Bentley was very compelling. After hearing both the defense and prosecution reconstructionists and the rest of the testimony in the case, I personally don't believe that car ever traveled up that slope.
And so, what you are left with this morning is this question: Did the car go up on the slope as Officer Hastings said it did? Because if it didn't, then that means the car was stopped or slowed almost to a stop when he fired. Physics is physics, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force, and a car going 25 miles an hour and aimed at Officer Hastings standing 1-2 feet off the curbline would have to have gone up that slope.
If you don't believe the car went up that slope, then you have to believe that the car was, in fact, stopped or slowing to a stop when Hastings fired. And if you believe that, then you have to believe there was no threat to Josh Hastings that required Bobby Moore's life to be ended. And if you believe that, then Officer Hastings firing into that car with the intent to kill was an unreasonable act, and therefore reckless. And taking another person's life with a reckless act is, as I understand it, the definition of manslaughter.
I'm not saying that any of those things are true. I'm saying that's what the jury will have to decide today. I don't envy them.
More from David Koon. For earlier reporting on the manslaughter trial of former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings go here.
Day three of the Hastings trial started off with the judge and counsel making an inquiry into several jurors. Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen sent out the jury, then brought back in three jurors — two women and a man — individually for bench conferences with counsel present. After last juror left, Griffen and consel had a long conference at the bench, then jury was brought back in and case proceeded. Oddly, up until the full jury was brought back in, there was extra security in the courtroom gallery — two deputies and an extra baliff. After bench conference was over, extra security in gallery was sent out.
Engineer and accident reconstructionst John Bentley came back to the stand for questioning by Prosecutor John Johnson, who walked Bentley through a series of photos taken of the rock slope at Silver Lake Apartments. Bentley's photos showed that the rocks immediately adjacent to the four-inch curb that Josh Hastings said the Honda drove up on and over after he fired were between 8 and 13 inches higher than the pavement. Bentley said, "The front of the Honda will reach the rocks before the front tire reaches the curb." Around 2 1/2 feet from the curb, photos showed the large, cantaloupe-sized granite rocks are around 20 inches higher than the pavement. All were apparently still "nested" in the soil and undisturbed.
Bentley's photos of the Honda driven by victim Bobby Moore showed that the lowest point of the plastic front air dam of the Honda, when loaded with 300 pounds to simulate driver and passengers, is between 4-1/2 and 4-3/4 inches off pavement. Bentley testified that the only damage to the plastic bumper and plastic radiator undershroud (the plastic piece that runs the width of the car just behind the bumper, directing air to the bottom of the radiator) were "uniform abrasions" consistent with driving up on concrete parking stops and not consistent with an impact to heavy rocks. Bentley testified there was no damge to the floorboards, exhaust, lower panels or front mudflaps that would be consistent with driving up onto heavy granite rocks. "You would expect fairly obvious penetrations to the panels from the sharp corners of the rocks." Bentley said. He also said he found no "rubber transfer" on the curb or the rocks.
After looking at the photos, Johnson displayed Bentley's report and a report prepared by a defense crash expert, noting several passages that seemed nearly identical in wording to Bentley's report and stopping just short of saying those passages were plagiarized. Bentley said the passages were close enough that when he read the defense report, he'd gone back to see if the other author had cited his report, but found that he hadn't. Both reports came to the conclusion that when the car rolled into the awning pole and a Chevy Camaro, the Honda was traveling 10.6 miles per hour. That number was based on his own calculations, Bentley said, with Bentley and questioning implying that it would be extremely odd for two investigators to estimate speed to within a tenth of a mph.
After break, Johnson plans to show video of defense testing in which an identical Honda was driven up the slope.
The manslaughter trial of Josh Hastings continued today after an afternoon break with the defense calling engineer and vehicle accident reconstructionist John Bentley to the stand. Under questioning by Bill James, Bentley said that he'd been hired by the prosecution to review information about the case.
Bentley said it was his opinion that the Honda Accord driven by Bobby Moore was traveling 10-11 miles per hour when it rolled backward into the awing support and Chevy Camaro at Shadow Lakes Apartments after Moore was shot. Bentley said examination of the filaments in the car's reverse lights showed that the car wasn't in reverse at least one or two seconds before impact, though Bentley noted that examination of the car found that the shifter could be moved from reverse to neutral without stepping on the brake. He also noted the presence of Bobby Moore's blood on the rear of the shift knob, implying that it could have been knocked from reverse into neutral.
Questioning moved to whether or not the Honda traveled up the granite rock embankment as Hastings said it did on the night of the shooting. Bentley said: "My opinion is that the Honda did not go up that embankment," with Bentley citing the lack of disturbed soil, lack of scrapes and markings on the "rip-rap" granite of the slope and four-inch curb beside the street, lack of tire tracks on the slope, and lack of scrapes and other markings on the undercarriage of the Honda.
Bentley also said the "nested rocks" embedded in the soil on the slope showed no signs of having been moved or otherwise disturbed. "You hit this rock embankment with these teeth in it," Bentley said, "and you're going to have some kind of physical evidence out there." Bentley noted that when a defense expert ran an identical Honda up onto the rock slope — which Bentley said is a 33% grade according to surveying tools he used at the scene — the test car showed markings on the steel cross members of the undercarriage, while the Honda driven by Bobby Moore didn't.
As we reported on May 23, the Arkansas Supreme Court had ruled that the conviction made Cassell ineligible to hold office. Justice Cliff Hoofman, writing for the court, said "...a crime that involves dishonesty or deceit constitutes an 'infamous crime' under the Arkansas Constitution, which bars the offender from holding public office. ... An 'infamous crime' by its nature impugns the integrity of the office and directly impacts the person’s ability to serve as an elected official."
Dewayne Pierce, who had served as Cassell's chief deputy, will serve as acting Sheriff until the Searcy County Quorum Court can make an appointment from a pool of six applicants who have expressed a willingness to serve.
Teri Lea Baber bonded out of jail late last week after being arrested on suspicion of solicitation of murder. The woman who police say Baber tried to hire informed the authorities, providing them with a taped telephone conversation in which Baber suggested that the woman meet her ex-husband at a bowling alley in Fayetteville after his league bowling night, slip LSD into his drink, and then either shoot him or convince him to shoot himself.
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In memory of the loss 33 years ago today:
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